Augmented Reality Onboarding

So I’m looking for a restaurant.  I bring up my phone, hold it up in front of me, and scan what’s around.  It tells me that 1.2 miles over that way there is a Thai place that is rated week, or 0.65 miles the other way there is a BBQ place that everyone loves.  I tap the screen and up come reviews.  I think that I’m headed to a pulled pork sandwich.

So it’s my first day on the job.  I’m lucky today – my cubicle, phone and laptop are all ready for me.  My manager takes me to lunch, and I get introduced to the team.  HR conducts orientation and I enroll in benefits.  Someone comes over and tells the the 10 people I should really meet at some point, and someone else drops 10 large binders on my desk to review.  Not so lucky after all.

Every manager is fully aware of long ramp up times for new employees as they adapt to a new culture, business processes, and team members.  For some roles, the ramp up period can be as short as a month, for other more technical roles 18 months is not unheard of.  Not only is there a need to decrease the ramp up period for productivity reasons, but the employee experience suffers as s/he struggles to navigate the new workplace.  While onboarding is the realm of HR practitioners, start-up and time to productivity is the realm of the manager, a well thought out social onboarding approach can integrate the two needs and accelerate tasks while engaging the new employee.  Tasks that happen informally in the current state of a business could be put to a “gamified” experience where new employees win points or badges as they accomplish a set of activities.  The simple activities could be making sure benefit enrollments are performed and going to the employee orientation.  But informal meetings, like having lunch with their manager and other team members, can be awarded.  Going a step further, creating a network of links in the internal social enterprise site can be encouraged, and getting to know other members of the staff beyond the employee’s core team will help the employee connect broadly in ways that may help their work in the not so immediate future.  Having a manager spend 15 minutes before their employee arrives noting who would be important to meet can make the employee onboarding experience less an outcome of luck and more a planned activity.

Gaming experiences can also be applied to onboarding.

  • Imagine if the employee could show up on their first day, download an app to their phone and take a guided tour of the office.
  • A new group of employees could be treated to an office scavenger hunt to familiarize them with people, places, and departments.
  • New hires could compete against each other in cross functional teams from different departments to get familiar with document management systems, company products and services, policies and procedures.
  • The mentoring experience could be converted to a series of interactions for which bot hthe new employee and the mentor can be rewarded.
  • At the end of the virtual onboarding experience, the employee has connected with their teams, people from other departments, they know where to find work related documents and administrative documents.

Onboarding and speed to productivity is something that most companies know is a problem, but continue to allow employees to grow in the organization organically.  Not only is there an opportunity to better manage the interactions that are known to create positive impact, but these interactions can be made fun.  An employee’s first day should be fun – it should be an expression of what the employee can expect for the rest of their career there.  It should be immersed in learning and discovering, accelerating the time it takes to bing productive and a full fledged member of the team.  SHouldn’t this one be a no-brainer?

HR, Twitter and Osama bin Laden

Yeah – I’m going to write about this.  I just finished watching Zero Dark Thirty on the plane, and I’m thinking back to that day.  I remember landing in the Chicago airport, booting up my phone and checking Twitter.  Scrolling through the feed, one caught my eye: “bin Laden is down.”  The tweet was more than a couple hours old at that point, but I noticed it came from a friend of mine in India.  I then proceeded straight to the United lounge where I was in absolute disbelief – they had some random Court TV channel on or something.  I asked everyone to change channels to CNN saying something like, “Guys, bin Laden is down, we need some news.”  I got blank stares and a, “Who are you and what are you smoking?”  By the time I left the club, everyone was hanging out next to the TV’s, it had finally made US media more than 4 hours after the event.

There are all sorts of Twitter analogies I love.  I love that Twitter can figure out the mood of the country every single day (probably every single minute) based on keywords.  I know that we don’t all use Twitter (hey, I’m totally a late adopter and I still barely use it to this day), but this post is really about social media and the pulse of your organization.  Hopefully you have something running whether it’s Sharepoint, SFDC Chatter, Jive or anything else.  The question is, “are you listening?”

There are all sorts of stories these days about customers who don’t go to the vendor customer service call center, but tweet problems on-line.  Service organizations are starting to get pretty good at monitoring Twitter and responding to people to fix problems.  I’m not saying that your HR service center needs to allow tickets to come in fiat social media, but when there is a thread about how bad the health insurance is, or that managers are not listening to employees, do you find out about that first, or does someone else bring it to your attention 3 days later?  You have the ability to get a view into the problem before it explodes into something bigger that execs are now worried about, but you have to be listening in the first place.  Seriously, do you want to bring it to your exec that there is a problem, or do you want your exec to bring it to you?

Mass Collaboration:
You can’t get this on email.  Even if you are using large distribution lists, most of the people on those lists ignore those emails.  Take it from me – I’m one of them.  You can get really interesting ideas out there, but if it’s in an email thread where the content is not managed, it’s not owned by the enterprise.  Social collaboration forums not only allow mass storage of insights, but they do it in perpetuity (until someone cleans up or archives).  If we’re all sitting in front of the news waiting 4 hours to get it, that’s pretty slow and we’re dependent on the distribution channel to tell us what’s important.  If we take to the user owned collaboration forums, we get to filter insights in real time.

Back to this idea of pissed off employees – there doesn’t always have to be a thread about something that is upsetting any group of people.  How cool would it be if you could create an algorithm that gives you a measure of employee engagement on a daily basis (ok, maybe weekly).  Apologies to the vendors who sell engagement surveys, but if you could put together an algorithm that gave you engagement, split it up on dimensions of level, job families, pay grades, organization, you’d have a pretty powerful tool.  You might complain that you don’t have specific actions, but I’d disagree.  What is the use of an engagement survey that gives you a report every year?  Just like the crap about performance management not being meaningful, if it’s a year later, it’s too late.  On a weekly basis, you could dig into what comments are causing lower engagement scores, deal with them in the specific populations, create engagement and solutions before things escalate.

Talent Management:
I wrote about this years ago, but I think it might actually be time.  I’m totally intrigued by the idea that you can get rid of your entire competency model and just use social media.  LinkedIn is getting closer, but it’s nowhere near perfect.  I don’t want anyone tagging me with skills.  What I do want is for HR to figure out what I’m good at by looking at my social media posts inside the corporate firewall.  If I post about HR Analytics and 20 people respond, that gives HR an idea that I might be interested in the subject.  If someone posts a question about HR Analytics and I respond, and I also get 20 “likes” for my answer, I might have some expertise.  As you aggregate all the social data over time, create a taxonomy to apply against business conversations, and apply all that data against employees, you have a pretty good idea of what people are thinking about and what they are good at.

I’ll acknowledge that listening is only part of the solution – much of the other part is figuring out how to listen, what to listen to, and how to decipher what you are hearing.  There is a lot of static out there and you need good tools to get good insights back.  I also don’t know how far off social listening is for HR, but hopefully this gets us thinking.  It’s something we need to do as our organizations get more diverse globally, disconnected geographically, and technologically savvy.  Conversations are moving to social, and we have an opportunity.  Let’s grab it.

Global or Regional: HR Service Delivery Should Always Be Perfect

I’ll admit it. I fly United. I also know that everyone hates them, but I actually don’t. In fact, I’d fly United over any other carrier in the US (which does happen quite often). Ok, so sometimes extreme status helps out, but they do treat their upper tiers of status holders rather well. In the latest round of airline mergers, I was nonetheless please to hear that it was not really a merger of equals. In fact, what happened is that at the end of the day, Continental Airlines bought market share and brand, the United leadership team was generally disbanded, and the continental leadership team brought in to transform what is generally considered a high cost United model. No matter what, I have been treated well at United, but not everyone is. In fact, unless you are a 100k miles flyer and up, your experience on UAL probably sucked. For me, I knew exactly what I was getting when I got on a plane or called my excessive help line. But for the masses, the experience was poor.  ((I write this sitting in International First  – no doubt in my mind that my experience is vastly different than it is downstairs.))

As I extended my travels outside the US, I also had a similar experience on United. I knew I could count on upgrades, tell free exclusive help lines no matter where I was in the world. Again, for the masses, this didn’t work out to the same experience. Instead, if you really wanted a good experience, you decided to fly regional carriers. Everyone that is not a frequent business traveller seems to love Southwest, Jet Blue, and Virgin Atlantic, and if you go overseas, god forbid you get stuck in some foreign land using a large US based carrier.

Part of what I see in HR is that HR service delivery is totally variable depending on who you are and where you sit.  OK, I get it that on an airplane, if I pay for a business class seat, I should get a nicer seat and better food.  I get that if I’m a seriously frequent flyer, I’m going to get on the plane first.  But shouldn’t everyone who calls the help desk get the exact same experience?  Is it ever acceptable that someone sits on the phone for 15 minutes to wait for a real person?  Back to this idea of variability, there’s a significant problem that how good your service is can depend on what country you are in.  It’s not for skills, but for US based countries, the training is just often better and more attentive.  If you don’t sit in the HQ country or have a large population, then your employees are relegated to second class status where service is concerned.  Often, we have plenty of people from HR Service Centers and HR Coordinators and HR Business Partners in our major population centers.  Countries with 20 people get a website and a phone number of someone who is not supposed to talk to them if they are not a director and up.

If I think about who our callers are, let’s face the facts here as well.  If a VP calls your HR center, you are going to get her paycheck fixed within a matter of hours.  Some guy from the manufacturing line?  Right, manual check will be cut, Fedex’d out and you’ll have a new check in 4 days.  We all know the probabilities – the VP does not really need the money, but the line guy might be living paycheck to paycheck.  Our priorities are to address those with status first though.

Here are a few things you can do to fix the problems:

  1. Look into your service delivery infrastructure and find out if all your populations have acceptable if not equal access to services
  2. Do a survey in your non-major populations to see if you are effective or not
  3. Run a report on HR staff training to see if your non HQ populations receive the same level of attention
  4. Look at call volumes per country, and don’t stop there – understand the differences in volumes and don’t assume lower is better

Don’t get me wrong – I love the fact that someone pretty much always picks up the phone when I call.  I love that I only have to listen to 20 seconds of the automated guy, and that they keep upgrading me.  I totally get they do this so they can keep my money when I fly.  But I’m also quite saddened to hear when others have very poor experiences.  If the VP with the paycheck knew what the experience of the line person was, she’d most likely tell you to give everyone equal treatment.


Tweet 1: Airline miles is not a model for #HR. Services to all, not just the loudest and neediest.

Tweet 2: Standardizing user experience globally in #HR Service Delivery

Tweet 3: Your low population countries matter for HR service delivery too.

I Could Have Been A Ditch Digger

Note of warning:  Stereotypes follow in plenty. Last year I wrote a post titled “I could have been a rice farmer.”  It’s completely true that had my parents not moved from Taiwan to the United States before I was born, the possible alternatives to my life are infinite.  However, I probably would not actually have been a rice farmer even though the family residences are surrounded by them.  I come from a family where most of the members are teachers/professors, or (to my great surprise) artists of some fashion or another.  Even if I go back 4 generations, the number of teachers is astounding.  (My maternal grandmother and grandfather were “arranged” by their uncle – a good match because they were all teachers).  The point though is that with the competitive educational system in Taiwan, I probably would never have made it through.  You see, in Taiwan, you have to test well to get into better schools, and the best of the best students get into the top schools based on test scores.  It’s basically a stack ranking system that begins in the very earliest of school experiences.  I don’t think I’m a total slouch in the grey matter department, but I’m by far one of the worst Asian students that ever was.  Given my lack of capacity for learning in a structured schooling environment, I probably would have exited the educational system for a profession that did not require my brain.

Fortunately for me, we in the US live in a society where opportunities abound to give second and third and fourth chances.  While a horrible classroom learner and incredible un-studious slacker, I managed to get good enough SAT’s and GPA ((Asian Slacker SAT=1275-ish and GPA=4.2-ish)) to get into a number of small, liberal arts colleges including Pitzer, my alma mater.  Here, I had yet more choices, all of which I failed at from a learning perspective.  However, I excelled at the experience that was provided to me.  I was active in many ways including politics (one of my core college memories is single handedly inciting a protest march of almost 1000 students), team sports (this is when I learned how to ride and race a bike), and college programs (as a student, I was on the committee of 8 people who made professor tenure decisions).  Most importantly for my future, I was also skilled at the discussions that happen in liberal arts settings.  Ultimately, even coursework became less about how well I could cram for an exam, and more about sitting around a table with 5 other students and a professor and having a conversation about the book we read that week.  Structured learning out of a textbook was replaced by learning through thoughtful discussion, and this is really what a liberal arts education meant to me.  The replacement of having to be “book smart” for thoughtful and intelligent converted my capability to be in the workforce.

At the end if it all, what defined my ability to craft a future for myself, was the ability to have that discussion and analytically derive a point of view and opinion.  It was the ability to influence, convince, and sometimes concede that point of view.  Every Asian student I knew was supposed to be a doctor, engineer or accountant, but had I entered US college with that aim, I would at best be a middling in my trade.  If I was still in Taiwan, I would never have made it into college.  Any success I’ve had in my career initiates from that initial deviation from “textbook learning” to flexible social thinking.

Here’s what I’ve been pondering – there are many ways to get a person to a goal, but there are also a few fundamental problems.  First, we don’t always know what that goal is.  Second, the best path for each individual is also unknown.  Finally, we in Human Resources have continued to fail at providing performance and goal events that are meaningful at individual levels.

It’s no surprise to anyone that Talent Management has failed.  From HR to executive ranks, we complain about performance reviews with such a unified voice it’s sometimes the only thing we all agree on.  The problem is not that we fail to track goals and objectives, or that we can’t identify issues with how employees excel at their tasks.  The problem is that most managers do this once a year, and certainly not in real time.  Employee performance does not occur at a once a year interval.  it occurs every day as they are working on tasks that move our organizations towards strategic goals.  Their ability to move us slower or faster depends on the quality of direction we are able to provide them, and if we only do this once a year, we have completely failed.  Since we actually do only do this once a year, we indeed have failed – specifically, performance management programs have failed.

The solution is quite simple, real time feedback on work, goals and objectives.  Organizational strategy is not static, so why should the individual goals and objectives that employees have be static?  Indeed, if any level of objective should be as flexible as possible, it is at the employee level.  Our daily lives are not dictated by a year long striving for single-minded achievement.  Instead, we flex our activities to constantly changing micro-tasks that emerge along the way.  While the organizational strategy probably remains at least 90% constant through the course of the year, changing business conditions, sales, service needs, operational realities, and technology all drive adjustments on a daily basis.  Employees react and should be measured in their agility to manage these changes while still staying on the strategic path.  Setting goals in real time that reflect the realities of the day or week not only change how employees receive feedback, but it also changes the way we reward employees, and their ability to connect rewards with their own actions.

We’ve also failed at ensuring appropriate development occurs in meaningful ways through the talent process.  Basically, the path to the goals we just talked about are not clear.  Even if we are working on real time goals and objectives, the tasks and activities needed to get to effective achievement   Today’s conversation is all about “gamification,” but I’m not totally a fan of how HR has been applying gamification to learning.  We seem to have taken gamification too literally and have been trying to create games from learning activities.  This is not the holy grail.  What we should be doing instead is understanding the mechanics of game as they apply to the human psychology, and providing frameworks for employees to excel, achieve, and advance.  Basically, learning should merge with goal outcomes that provide paths to effective employee achievements.

Once again, the problem is that we treat learning as a macro activity.  You go to a class, and after a week of training, you exit that class with a supposedly learned skill.  But the basic framework is an assumption that you needed that skill to begin with, based on some large project plan, HR created career ladder, or some job description.  As with performance management, these courses often have nothing to do with a person’s daily activities.  What gamification should be (and is in the minds of guys like Bunchball) is a structured approach to funneling people through flexible tasks to reach an end goal.  If I want to teach someone how to create a report, a class is ok, but enforcing the necessary tasks and activities within the actual job is better.  Through gamification, an employee can advance through various levels from data queries to advanced analytics, all of which can and should be tied to those performance goals we just talked about as well as a real time rewards system.  Many organizations have separate social gamification and learning teams, but indeed these practices need to be fused together.  Gamification of tasks if not configured in the broader context of learning activities is asinine, as is continuing a single minded focus on 1 time, macro learning events.  As individuals, we learn not because we’re told we should acquire a skill, but when that skill is truly needed and used in our daily routines.  Once again, the theme of “real time” dominates effectiveness of results.

What is exciting is that in 2013, we might finally have the technology to fix our failures.  Real time performance management has arrived for the masses, and gamification is penetrating all the major social tools.  In 2012 we were still theorizing about this stuff from an HR context, but in 2013, the technology has arrived.  While I don’t know what the adoption rates will be this year, I do think that 2013 will mark a transitional point in our approach.  In the following years, I’m confident we’ll see a downward trend in traditional talent tools, and a markedly upward trend in social talent management (probably the 2 approaches combined together).

Back when I was 2 years old, the options I had for a successful career in my parent’s eyes was quite limited.  They would have wanted me to be an electrical engineer (seriously).  But clearly the path for me to get there was not quite as straightforward, and indeed, almost 40 years later we’ve all realized that not only did the overall outcome shift, but the path to get there for me personally was not what any of us would have predicted.  I could still have a good career, but I was not cut out to be an engineer, nor was I cut out to learn from textbooks in a traditional way, nor was captivated by the pursuit of straight A’s.  What did work for me was the ability to have an education that provided me with constant conversations and an approach to thoughtfully analyzing the world that took 4 years to teach.  If my parents could have set a path for me at birth, I would have gotten straight A’s, gone to MIT, gotten a PhD in engineering, and be some world renown dude with a hundred patents.  NOPE!  We have to flex, manage, and learn every step of the way.

I Don’t Want No Stinkin’ Analytics!

I’m a nerd.  I get on my bike or I go for a run, and I’ve got my Garmin GPS running the whole time telling me how far I went, how fast I went, what my heart rate was, (ok I’ll stop the list well before it gets to 20 items).  I also happen to weigh myself 4 times a day.  I like to know how much I weigh, what my % of water weight is, how fat I am, etc.  I’m a total nerd and I like my data – lots of it.

When I get home from a routine Saturday ride, the first thing I do is download all the data.  The data by itself is interesting, but only for about 3 minutes.  The second thing I do is I trend the thing.  I’ll look at my ride side by side with the prior week’s and maybe several others.  Basically I’ll compare the stats and get an idea if I was slower, faster, more powerful, etc.  In other words, within a few seconds, I’ll know if I’m better or worse off.

The thing is, I really don’t care about that either.  What I really care about is that I was really slow up Mt. Tam, or that I got dropped on the way into Pt. Reyes.  It’s not that I care that I suck (that’s a given), it’s that where I suck tells me what to work on.  Sometimes, it even tells me that I didn’t eat enough (a common problem if you guys know me – yes, I’m neurotic).

In the last 15 years, most of us have gone from minimal data in our reports, to some pretty decent analytics and/or dashboards.  We’ve started moving away from the static and columnar operational reports and into trending and drillable analytics.  With these new reports, we’ve prided ourselves with the ability to tell our executives that “turnover is down compared to a year ago”, or “the cost of hiring in #BU has skyrocketed.”  It’s a wonderful day in the neighborhood!

But I don’t want operational reports.  Neither do I want analytics.  What I want has almost nothing to do with the data.  I want insightfulness into the business.

Let’s pretend I go to the head of my business unit and tell her that turnover is up over the last 3 quarters.  “Crap,” she says.  “What is the problem and what do we do about it?”  Joe HR stammers and says, “looks like we have an engagement problem???”  Trends and drills are really nice things.  I know I’m lying, our managers really do want this stuff.  But they only want it because we’ve starved them for data for decades.  They really are only mildly interested in the data.  Just as I only look at my bike ride speed out of curiosity, I know that the number alone tells me zilch.  Just as knowing my average speed compared to last week tells me only if I was a little better or worse, ignores conditions on the road, and the environmental context.  What I really want to know is how everything fits together to provide an analysis that give me the insight to act and make a decision.  I want to know what to act on, when, and how to do it.

HR’s job in data is starting to transition yet again.  We’re moving out of the business (I hope) of creating trends and drills, and moving into the business of context.  So the turnover trend looked bad.  Now the questions is how we create a regression model around our data to figure out what the primary actors are for that turnover trend.  Maybe for once engagement only has a small contributing score to turnover.  Maybe what we didn’t know was that the leader told their entire BU that nobody was getting a bonus this year.  Perhaps the cause of that was actually some severe cost containment driven at the corporate level.  How about some good analytics here to compare the cost of total turnover to the cost of those bonuses?

At the end of the day, we have much cooler data.  I’ll give us that one (and the vendors especially).  It’s time though to stop being producers of just the data alone.  It’s not enough anymore.  Perhaps when half of HR were “generalists” a decade ago this was ok.  But we’re supposed to be partnered with the business now and we still can’t really diagnose what’s going on, let alone how to fix things.  Once again, let’s stop being producers of data and become analysts of data.  We need to start producing some insightfulness.

Cedar Crestone HR Technology Survey: Create a Winning HR Function

All too often, I get an industry report to read and end up saying to my colleagues, “wow this is crap.”  Case in point, at the end of 2012, I got a widely read industry report that rated a halfway decent HCM provider’s payroll engine to be better than one of the major payroll outsourcers.  They stated that a vendor’s almost non-existent compensation functionality was a top pick.  Each year, I go through the CedarCrestone HR Technology Survey, and hope there is something wickedly out of sync with conventional wisdom.  Each year, Lexy proves why she is the queen bee of HR surveys and is meticulously above reproach.  I just can’t stand it.

What’s great about this particular survey is that it’s not just gathering data and spitting it back out at you.  I know we all care how many people are buying Workday versus Fusion versus Employee Central versus … this year.  I know we all are interested how many of us are still on premise with our core HCM.  That’s so not the point.  What Lexy does is far more interesting.  She takes all of this data and compares it to company profiles.  What’s the correlation of profitable companies to those people who are running Software X or Technology Y?  This makes up the part of the report I’d like to chat about.  Lexy published 7 habits, and I’m going to summarize so you’ll just have to ask CedarCrestone for the report to read the whole thing.

The attributes that defined successful companies were pretty much higher than usual revenues per employee, profits per employee, operating income and return on equity.  Pretty good measurements.  I’m not sure if CedarCrestone evaluates which is causal, but they do evaluate correlations, so in that sense, go after what you can control, which in our case is the HR side.

  • User Adoption – “If you build it, they will come.”  What a load of crap – wasn’t that some baseball movie Kevin Costner was in?  I don’t remember, but it certainly does not apply to HR technology.  Instead, we have to implement ridiculous change management strategies just to get our managers and employees engaged with us.  If not, we only hear from them when their payrolls are wrong, or to complain about the vacation policy.  The reality is that organizations who successfully implemented solutions, had good change management programs resulting in high user adoption also ended up being among the more successful companies.
  • Buying Habits and Governance – Governance always seems to play into things.  I’ve found that the few organizations that are great at governance tend to be awesome places to work, make good decisions, and have high employee engagement.  So I’m stretching Lexy’s observations here, but basically when I reflect on her finding that successful companies have more technology and spend less per employee, I almost immediately translate that into good governance.  How do you get to better utilization of what you have, and only buying what you need after all?
  • Technology Decisions – There was also a couple of themes that I translated into low maintenance overhead, but also the ability to use industry best practices.  It kills me when I walk into a client that is so highly customized they really don’t know what they are doing anymore other than accepting new requests and implementing full time.  Most of these organizations don’t even know why or what the business case is – they just do it.  Successful companies are correlated to low customization, which is also correlated to SaaS purchases.
  • Data – One would automatically think that successful companies are good with data.  It seems obvious.  The survey actually points out a couple of great tactical elements to get you there.  The first one was integrated talent management with your core HCM product.  Companies that were there tended to have a significant advantage than others.  The second was the utilization of mature business intelligence models, along with the deployment of that data into manager’s hands where agile business decisions can be made.

At the end of the day, HR just wants to be heard.  Interestingly enough, there are elements of shoring up our own house as well as focusing on outcomes here.  If we make bad decisions and have crappy governance, well that’s problem number 1.  But if we also have crappy user adoption and poor data, we’ve also lost the game.

Note – nowhere in this did we correlate functionality to success!

Strategy without Technology is Stupid

As of about 2003, I don’t think I could live my life without my devices.  Back then it was the blackberry and laptop.  Now it’s my Android phone, iPad and laptop.  If I lose my phone, I’m basically dead in the water – no contact with the outside world… I’m totally cut off.  When I’m waiting for the train, I’m reading my daily dose of news.  When I’m walking between the train and the office, I’m reading the last 5 emails that came in while I was on the train and keeping up to the minute.  When it’s after hours and I don’t know where I’m meeting my friends for dinner, I simply navigate to one of them using Google Latitude.  If you took all my devices away, I’m not sure I can return to 1999.

Here’s my pitch when I do an introduction to a new client, “I’m an expert in all things HR Service Delivery, but focus on HR technology.”  There was a time when this made sense.  I’m not sure it works anymore.  The point is that when we talk about HR Service Delivery, most of our services are now delivered through a technology.  We worry less and less over HR coordinator/generalist types who shepherd processes through for managers, and shared services people who make sure that calls get answered or paper gets entered.

Let’s face the facts about HR Service Delivery strategy.  Our employees and managers don’t actually want to talk to us anymore.  They are used to booking their own travel, entering their own time and expenses, looking up budgets in the financial systems.  Their personal lives are all about going to and their iPhones.  If their lives revolved around getting stuff for themselves instead of asking us to help them with a promotion, they would be much happier.

So why do we end up helping these managers so much?  Mostly it’s because more than half of the companies we work for have technologies that suck.  Yep, I said it… your HRT sucks.  If you really looked into your strategy (which probably has a lot to do with engaging employees/managers, making HR more effective/efficient, delivering better information… you’d quickly figure out that your HRT is actually the roadblock.  Put in something that is so easy to use that managers don’t have to ask you how to do something, and you’ll have happier employees who use the tools and get things done.

I’ve spent a lot of time guiding clients to their strategies, and also looking at the strategies that other consultants put together.  We all do the same things, we figure out where the business is and how we align HR to it, and then we figure out how to place technology to meet those HR and talent requirements.  It’s all a bit top down though.  What we need is a bottoms up approach that goes hand in hand with what we’ve been doing all along.  Figure out what the business needs from technology, but also what our employees want.  If we meld this together, we’ll find out that the technologies we deploy are more aligned with everything we need.

For 2013, it might be time to update my tagline.  “I’m an HR Technology specialist who is great at applying it to HR Service Delivery.”


The Social Recruiting Process: What You Need to Know

Techniques being used to find and hire talent have changed significantly in the last few years and it’s quickly moving toward a social process. According to a survey from Jobvite, 92% of companies in the US used social platforms for recruiting in 2012. 73% successfully hired a candidate through social media – a drastic increase from 58% in 2010. Needless to say, your basic HR software will no longer do the trick.

The key to successfully navigating the social recruiting process lies in understanding the underlying paradigm shift inherent in today’s emerging technologies. Recruiting is no longer a static, controlled process within your company. Rather, it is a dynamic process of continuous online engagement with large pools of potential talent.

Continuous Engagement is Key

Social recruitment necessitates a shift in attitudes about the recruitment process itself. Finding job candidates is a part of your company’s online presence – the success of your social recruitment hinges upon the successful use of your social profiles as a whole.

  • Your recruitment process doesn’t start with a job opening and end with new employee placement. Job openings occur continuously over time, so candidate sourcing will always be a constant, long-term process.
  • Simply posting a link to your job opening won’t attract the best candidates. They need to be already visiting your company page on a regular basis for the industry-relevant content you post.
  • Instead of thinking about soliciting résumés on social media, focus on developing relationships with your social networks. Concentrate on presenting your company brand to a group of people who have the talent and skills you’re looking for, and engage those people on your social profiles.

Utilize Dynamic Content

Your online marketing strategies are dynamic; the content you post on your social accounts is interesting to your followers and elicits engagement.  When seeking job candidates, you want to employ the same tactics.

  • Your job postings should be just as welcoming as the rest of your page’s content. Job descriptions attract and engage qualified candidates when they are well-written and supported with extra content that describes your company’s culture and the intangible requirements and benefits of a position.
  • Boost your job posting’s drawing power by including video interviews with current employees and other supportive content. Post these on YouTube and imbed them into status updates for optimal views.

Every Platform is Different

While all of your online profiles should work to attract those looking for jobs from with your industry, the recruitment best practices vary with each social media platform, so good planning is important. Your strategy should be modified to work with each platform’s processes, demographics, and rules for use.

  • Twitter: Participate in industry-specific chats in order to find followers who could become invested with your brand and have knowledge within your niche. Compile a list of useful hashtags for your industry and use them to tag all of your job postings so that the right candidates can easily find them.
  • Facebook: Create a jobs tab within your company page and promote it amongst your other content. You can link your recruitment software directly to your jobs page to make applicant tracking easy and efficient.
  • Linkedin: Take part in groups and discussions relevant to your industry. Develop a community of qualified followers and post your job listings where the best candidates can find them.

Your strategy for social recruitment should revolve around consistent, active engagement with your networks and followers. Promote your company brand with dynamic content that will attract and engage followers within your industry. Finally, appropriately utilize the different social platforms in order to reach the greatest number of qualified individuals.

Megan Webb-Morgan is a web content writer for She writes about small business, focusing on topics such as Gen Y hiring. Follow Resource Nation on Facebook and Twitter, too!


I Can Finally Buy My Dad a Smart Phone

Just a couple years ago, my parents came back to the US after years of being overseas missionaries.  They have been in Siberia, on a random island in the Pacific, etc… and they came back to a world where cell phones were ubiquitous and information was accessible everywhere.  My father is now over 70 years old, and he loves gadgets and toys of the electronic variety.  However, simple things like programming a new DVD player can elude him – not because he could not do it 15 years ago (I guess that would have been a VCR), but because it really is a bit different.

A couple years ago I bought my parents cell phones and put them on my plan.  This way they would have something in the case of an emergency, and of course a way to call me for free without paying long distance.  I’ve held off of buying my dad a smart phone though since I wasn’t sure if the whole thing would be a bit daunting.  Sure enough he’d love it, but I didn’t think he’d use it to 20% of its capabilities.  However, the time has come that I think I can do it.  No – it’s not going to be the iPhone, and certainly not an Android (my OS of coice).  I think I’m going to get him a WP8 phone.  Yep – Microsoft has finally created something that I can give my dad and not even worry about having to teach him how to use it.  The thing is marvelous – it works the way it should, it’s totally intuitive, notifications happen in the live tile rather than in some random notification area, etc…  This is a phone that my dad will understand, and I don’t even have to give him mor than 30 minutes of training.

I’m reminded about heading to India a few weeks ago where I was coordinating some UAT for a new core HRMS I was helping to implement.  I’d stand in front of a group of managers, give them the 5 minute pitch about why we were changing and who the vendor was.  Then I’d give them the 3 minute orientation to the product.  “Here’s where your ESS is, MSS, reports, and search” basically, and then let them loose with their scenarios and see what happened.  Unbelievably (to me) the managers unanimously walked out having figured out the product on their own, and all had great experiences.  Of course there was a feedback comment here and there, but all in all, these untrained managers just did their thing and got it right.

All UX should be this easy.  Throughout the ERP era, we were so used to overloading the managers with complexity and data that we assumed they wanted.  At the end of the day, they really needed something they could understand immediately upon login (the 3 times a year that they actually logged in).  And really, they didn’t want data – they wanted insightful information about their workers.  The data just turned out to be overload.

I’m pretty pleased about this decision to get my father a smart phone.  Not only am I going to get him more connected, but I know he will be really engaged with the tool – the man is going to have fun with it.  He’ll have a phone, but now I can text him and know he’ll get it, he will also have easy email, an easy way to send photos to me from his phone, etc.  In other words, I’ll have given him a tool that will make him more productive because he can use it.  Less really is more.


Engaging Testers

Testing is one of those things that I would not only be bad at, but I would rather loath to do it.  The infinite detail of what the task entails along with the endless permutations that are possible makes testing seem like an impossible task to me.  I really just can’t focus for as long as it takes.  Thankfully, I’ve always had people who could actually execute the tests for me instead of actually being forced to do more than a few myself.

In a recent round of user testing, I was astounded by the differences in participation rates based on the total preparation before the testing sessions.  For one group of testers, blind initiations were sent out  having not contacted the testers beforehand in any way.  Obviously, the participation rate for these invitations was far less than 50% – I actually think it was closer to 25%.

For a second group of testers (in a different country), testers were initially contacted to briefly explain the request before invitations were sent to those who had time.  After the invitations were sent, follow-up calls were done to revalidate who was showing up and why we needed them.  The day before testing, we sent out emails with the materials they would need.  Obviously, the participation rate for these testers was far higher.  Given that we asked testers before sending calendar invites, you can imagine that we had a 100% acceptance rate.  (ok, there were 3 tentative).  What is surprising though is that we actually had a 100% show rate on over 30 testers, which I think is unheard of.

All I’m really saying here is that when most of us are doing testing for a new implementation, we go through a lot of effort to execute it and get feedback.  UAT is especially important because it’s your last opportunity to create engagement with a small population of end users, and get change management feedback to help target messaging.  There would seem to be a fairly minimal amount of effort to get great feedback versus doing slightly less work but getting pretty mediocre results.


Feedback and Calling BS in Social

An interesting thing happened at the recent HR Technology Conference.  During Naomi Bloom’s “Master Panel,” when Mike Capone noted that ADP had the first SaaS application, before anyone else and before anyone called it SaaS, many of my compatriots on twitter decided to tweet this statement.  I have no issues with announcing to the world what a panel member said.  However, I know for what must be a fact that half of my compatriots on twitter thought to themselves, “Hmmm, really?”  In fact, I myself wrote a tweet, “ADP had SaaS first?  I think not!” and posted it just to immediately delete it.  Why after all, would I want to be the only dissenter?  Why would I want to be the only one to rock the boat?

I’ve continued to think about this statement about ADP, and have decided that I can’t really abide by it.  I have defined SaaS by two simple parameters: hosted and single code base.  All that means is that the customer does not maintain anything outside of their network infrastructure, and that all clients have the same application at the same time.

ADP has had Enterprise (before that HRizon) hosted since probably the mid 1990’s.  But they were always on multiple versions.  Similarly, you could say that AutoPay (the mainframe payroll engine) was SaaS since it does indeed cover both parameters of vendor hosted and always on the same version for all clients.  The problem here is that there are different versions of the input devices, and even different applications (Enterprise, Payforce, and now Vantage).  It really was not until ADP Payforce that I think ADP had a true SaaS platform that even they finally called “versionless.”  By the time this came out in about 2005, had been out for 5 years.  It’s completely possible that somewhere in ADP’s portfolio there was a SaaS platform, but I just can’t think of what it was.  If mainframe service bureau was SaaS, then I think IBM had it first.  Did ADP have SaaS first?  Perhaps, but that’s not my version of history.

<begin ADP response>

The fundamental concept of delivering a hosted, multi-tenant solution is something ADP has been doing for decades.  The delivery of those applications via the Internet / Cloud is something we’ve done since ’97 when we launched a product called ADP Remote Control.  This technology eventually became our iProducts series which now has well north of 100k clients.

Another early huge success in the Cloud was the Fall 2000 launch of Pay eXpert, a cloud-based payroll solution.  Today, more than 60,000 clients are using Pay eXpert.

Overall, we have more than 300,000 clients and 18 million users leveraging our cloud solutions.  Included in that count are 30,000 clients leveraging our cloud-based, integrated HCM and Talent offerings such as ADP Workforce Now, ADP Vantage HCM and ADP GlobalView.

</end ADP response>

Back to the point, now that I’ve had the time to think through this.  There was a comment by Ben Brooks in the Social Media Unpanel at HR Technology about “bad behavior.”  Something like “if you have a jerk, let them rise to the top so you can fire them.”  This really could have been me.  With nobody else saying anything about ADP, maybe I was the jerk – the one guy who had to say something and call someone else out in front of (how many thousand people?).  Being the jerk and providing negative public feedback (as I’m doing now in fact) is a dangerous thing.  You can be wrong, be seen as the A-hole, antagonize someone you work with (either internal or god forbid a client).  These are indeed serious risks and impact the way you’ll be seen in the organization.  If your organization is really transparent, perhaps some small callouts or questions are very acceptable.  But in highly politicized organizations, you’d best be thoughtful before being too vocal.

In another session (I wish I could remember), someone noted that with social in their organization they were receiving significantly more positive feedback for their employees than previously possible.  Employees found that giving people “stars” or other types of recognition was not only good for themselves, but also rewarded those they gave the positive feedback to.  Overall, employee engagement probably increased, and the sharing of positive feedback is quite circular (you’re likely to try to return the favor when it’s warranted).  The negative or constructive feedback rarely makes it to social media that is implemented in the enterprise.  These comments are usually reserved for private discussion (which can be dome through some social tools), or for manager discussions.

Either way, the socialization of constructive or negative feedback seems to have been restricted from our social interactions based on the concept of a “polite society.”  It’s not that we don’t want to call each other out, it’s that there is sometimes risk associated with it, and that the benefits of handling certain interactions privately benefits all parties.

I have just looked up Wikipedia’s page on SaaS (the social source of all truth in the universe…) and they do indeed list IBM as one of the first.  But given that mainframe service bureaus are on the SaaS history page, I suppose that ADP might have had it first in HR.  Mea Culpa, I retract my earlier criticism of ADP.  I will now giddily await Ceridian’s rebuttal.

HR Technology Conference Reactions: Talent Management Panel

The talent management panel at The HR Technology Conference was all about diversity.  Not diversity in terms of workforce, but the diversity in terms of approaches in deploying talent processes and technologies that different companies take in pursuit of their goals. With Jason Averbook hosting, we had Walmart (2+ million employees), Motorola Solutions (called themselves an 84 year old startup), Merck (single global system in 84 countries) and ETS Lindgren (900 employees). At one end of the table, we had 2.2 million employees and the other end we had 900. We had SAP globally, and we had Rypple/

Here are some highlights (not direct quotes in most cases):

Theme #1:  Ongoing feedback. When even Walmart says they need to deploy ongoing feedback for a workforce that is 2.2 million strong, this is something to watch.  Generally when we think of retail, we’re thinking about a population with a full set of competencies from some very senior talent to some fairly low paid employees.  Saying that real time feedback is important for the entire population is a big deal, where many of us would traditionally just focus on the top tier of talent.  ETS Lindgren said much the same and have experienced a huge jump in positive feedback.  They have shown that social can really assist in the engagement equation, but realize that the constructive feedback still happens either in private messaging or in the manager conversations.

Theme #2:  Focus on what matters. Having just said that you spread the wealth in Theme #1, there did seem to be a consistent theme around making sure that the roles that really drive revenues in your organization are the ones you focus on disproportionately.  There was a discussion about “peanut butter spread” and it seemed there was mass agreement where you provide some global focus, but your time is really spent managing the interactions with the employees that will impact your bottom line most directly.  I also want to do a theme 2.5 here.  Merck had an important call-out I think.  They are starting with a revamp of their job structure.  For any deployment be it TM, HCM or Social, if your foundation sucks, you are not going anywhere.  You can roll things out, and you might get adoption, but you won’t have great measurement.  Merck had this to say, “If someone allowed the choice of getting the basics right or deploying collaboration tools, I’d say to look at the foundation.” More on measurement later.

Theme #3:  Things still need to get easier. Walmart had a nice example with talent reviews.  They used to walk into a room of executives with volumes of huge binders.  Instead of that, they give everyone an iPad with the employee data preloaded.  This makes the discussion more dynamic and flexible.  At the same time, you can have significantly more data at your disposal compared to the volumes of binders.  This is an example where it’s working, but there are still areas where data minim does not work.  Motorola asked the question, “If I want a restaurant recommendation, I ask my friends on Facebook and get immediate answers.  If I need a best practice, there should be an app for that too.”

Theme #4:  Flexibility. This one goes hand in hand with ongoing feedback.  One of the companies stated that they will go without formal reviews and formal ratings.  WHAT?!?!?!  Not having reviews and ratings is an experiment that some have tried in smaller organizations, but I’ll be excited to see how it works in a socially based larger organization.  This theme is also about the social thread that would not stop coming up in this panel.  Most everyone seemed to have a social strategy that included not only conversations, but also some ideas of recognition.

Theme #5:  Data and analytics. We talked a bit about Merck in Theme #2.  I also liked the blended TM/Social/Analytics theme that ETS Lindgren brought up:  We want to know who is having conversations and about what at any given time.  If we can figure out what our talent is talking about, how to connect others, and measure the impact of quality interactions on our bottom lines, then we can also figure out how to invest in growing those specific conversations.  (tie in to Theme #1).

Theme #6:  Sponsorship. Motorola had this to say, “Our CEO has 2 jobs.  Managing the bottom line, and managing talent.”  ETS Lindgren had this to say, “Our Rypple tool came from the CEO.  We wanted to do something different.”  Either way you cut it, they had great sponsorship to ignite and create change.  It doesn’t always have to be the CEO, but if you don’t have top level sponsorship at all, you’re sunk.


Creating Information from Knowledge from Collaboration

It’s nice being a consultant.  People like consultants because we have a specific approach to a problem.  We talk to lots of people, look at lots of documents, conduct workshops.  Then we synthesize what we have learned and create judgments and opinions, and then we document everything to the nth degree.  Some people would argue we talk to too many people – but the value we bring is in developing a comprehensive and external point of view that is broad.  Some people would argue that too much (hopefully) documentation comes out of projects.  While most of my projects are boiled down to a 12 page powerpoint, there is usually a couple hundred pages of backup material and some really complex spreadsheets that prove my point.  At the end of the day, I can talk to as many people as I want, form whatever judgment I feel is right, and it’s all for naught if I don’t document it all.  2 years down the road, it’s just a piece of paper nobody looks at because nobody understands how the conclusions were made.  So I tend to document.

I say all of this because the process is important.  There is a flow between collaboration and exploration, to knowledge creation, to information creation.  We’ve been talking about knowledge management for ages.  Let’s face it – knowledge management has not necessarily worked out.  It’s an old topic that many people are sick of hearing about, but the truth of it is that we still don’t manage the knowledge in our organizations well.  Many of our organizations still have thousands upon thousands of documents stored in Sharepoint databases, but they are poorly versioned, not well cataloged, and hard to find.  If knowledge management practices of 10 years ago had panned out, we would have it all figured out by now.  Part of the problem is that we’ve changed technologies and user requirements rather rapidly, but at the core of the problem, we really didn’t understand what it was that we were actually cataloging.  Turns out, it was not all about knowledge management at all.

Let’s take a sample process.  If we are creating a business case, we create a task force or project team to investigate the problem, any risks, possible interactions, costs, etc.  Through this process, a significant amount of collaboration happens in the course of the investigation and discovery, after which some sort of decisions are made.  It is through the collaboration that knowledge is often created.  However, we can’t manage that knowledge that is created until the information is created in the form of the business case.  A good business case will document not only why we want to do something, but how, what were the risks and costs, and all the other components.  The business case, or the information we can catalog, is the output of the knowledge gained, that which we cannot catalog.

So we talk about knowledge management, all the while realizing that we can’t catalog what is in people’s heads.  We can only capture what they record – and this has gotten more interesting as we have gone from documents to blogs and wikis.  But the quality of that content is still in flux.  Do people actually record everything that went into their decisions?  Do they only blog about what is interesting to them?  If a high performer leaves the organization and they were a good documenter and quality blogger, how do you know that you still have all the knowledge they produced with they worked for you?

In today’s world, we talk a lot about how to create productivity gains from collaboration networks – and this is clearly important – it’s the starting point of knowledge creation.  We’ve spent years talking about knowledge management and how to catalog – and this is also important.  We’ve created knowledge bases that are not always optimized, but it’s a starting point.  What we have not done is effectively have a conversation about information and the quality of that information in the organization.  How do we actually make sure that all of our data is good data and that it’s complete?  Collaboration and knowledge is the starting point, but I think we need to start having a discussion about what is next.

The Pain Threshold

Lance Armstrong was a US National Champion and a World Champion long before he ever won seven (eight?) Tours de France.  The man was always known in cycling circles as the next big gun in US cycling.  In one race (San Diego I think), we were riding a horrifically fast pace, many of us in the pack heckling Lance often simply because he was a captive audience, when he just decided to ride away from us for a while to get a workout in.  Severely humbling.  He was known as a big, strong guy.  The guy who won that world championship was a guy who could sprint, a guy who had incredible short term bursts of power.  But he was never going to win the Tour de France.  That was, until, he got cancer.  Cancer did a couple things to him.  First, he lost a crapload (technical term) of weight and it transformed him into a leaner version of himself, but tapping into the same level of power that could now get him of 5 mountain passes in the Alps instead of just the last 500 meters of a race at 50mph.  Secondly, it taught him to experience pain in a way that he would never experience again.

I’ll be honest, these days when I’m on the bike, the barrier for me is not usually my legs or my lungs.  If I have a few rides under my belt, I’m really pretty good.  The problem is all mental.  I’m not in college anymore and I really don’t like pain.  There are times I’ll be doing an extended climb and one of my riding buddies will “attack” and while I often could follow, something in the back of my head says, “nah.”  I could follow the lead, but I know it will be painful.

Transforming HR is really, really hard work.  For much of the readership, it’s not just hard work for us, it’s even harder work for the employees we would deploy to the effort.  When our execs chose to switch out the payroll system, guess who gets to work long hours in December prior to a January 1 go-live?  We deal with a lot of pain to implement systems, both in effort as well as cash, and the ROI is not always financially obvious, but to get to the top of that hill, it’s something we have to commit to, and something our staffs need to commit to.

In understanding the work behind HR transformation, there are a few things to remember:

  • People actually don’t like change.  When you change their processes, they will resist doing something different than what they have done from years.  It’s not that they don’t want to support better processes, but a certain amount of fear arises when they are unsure how well they will perform in the new environment.
  • People resist making others change.  HR transformation is just that – we are changing ourselves.  But teams often protect people internally realizing that friends will lose jobs, or be forced to make unwanted shifts and compromises.
  • We get to do multiple jobs for a significant amount of time.  Not only are we going to have real jobs to do, but there will be project roles as well.  I don’t care if you bring an army from one of the large consulting firms, the internal team is going to be burdened with more work.
  • Outsourcing done right is hard.  Organizations don’t remember the depth of retained organizations that are needed, SLA’s need to be formulated to be specific and measurable, and internal staff are resistant to seeing their jobs performed differently than how they did them themselves.

Often when we deploy and new system that has the opportunity to be transformational, we focus too much on the external.  We train managers, communicate to employees, figure out who the main audiences are that we need to convert.  We assume that our own people are already bought in.  All I’m saying, is we can spend some time to look internally.  Give them some love and attention.  Encourage and motivate them.  Otherwise you’ve got a Justin at the top of the hill looking down, wondering where the hell I am and why I didn’t make it up there with you.  It was just too much pain.

Better Measures for Engagement

Is it Gallup that has the “Do you have a best friend at work” question?  We’re so into doing employee surveys to measure employee engagement.  They provide us with a statistically validated measurement of our workforce once or twice a year.  We can look at the engagement studies, and if we have any luck at all, capture some high level data about the organization and then correlate the data back to turnover and productivity in specific population groups.  My question is this: Isn’t waiting 6 or 12 months for engagement measurements rather a long time in today’s world of real time analytics?

How about this:  ((The idea for this post came from:  Ariely, Dan.  “CEO’s probably think of their employees as more like rats in a maze than as people.”  Wired Magazine, UK Edition.  April 11, 2011.  Page 44))

  1. Measure the time of day employees log into their PC in the morning.
  2. Measure the time of day employees log out of their PC in the afternoon.
  3. Measure the cost per day per trip (expenses) calibrated to some standard.
  4. Measure the number of sick days on Monday and Friday.

I mean, why would you wait 6 or 12 months?

  • If your employees are (on average) coming to work later or leaving earlier, they are less engaged.
  • If the aggregated cost of a trip to NYC costs more per day, employees are “fudging” their expenses, and they are less engaged.
  • If Monday and Friday sick time is increasing (faked sick time), they are less engaged.

I mean, come on, we want to have close to real time measures, right?  I’m not saying that employee engagement actually changes on a day to day basis, but charted weekly, you could get some really cool trending data and identify exactly when the engagement curve increases or decreases.  You could then correlate all of the events that happened in that timeframe and figure out what is actually causing increases or decreases in engagement.  You could also isolate specific groups and populations (sample size would have to be large enough).  Say a VP leaves and is replaced, and 6 months later employees are staying at work later.   Or, the cost of a meal in NYC seems to be getting higher for a specific project team – are they celebrating, or are they all depressed and eating more?

How cool would it be to then look at performance in correlation with a weekly trend in engagement?  This is assuming that we start managing and developing our employees on an ongoing basis rather than once a year, but the possibilities are out there.

Managing Thinking, Managing Knowledge

On March 2, 2011, Pakistan’s Minister for Minority Affairs, Shahbaz Bhatti was assassinated.  Like others before him (including Benazir Bhutto), he was killed for standing up for the right of Pakistanian citizens to believe in whatever they wanted to believe.  In this case, Bhatti was a Christian, and (to his detriment) was outspoken about it.  There are leading Muslim clerics who will say that the Koran is precise about the consequences of “blasphemy” which I suppose being Christian is.  Whether or not this is true is not for me to decide as I have no basis in Islam, the Koran, or as a religious scholar of any sort.  However, I do this to simply point out that people the world over feel a compelling need to manage what other people think and believe.  We can take another example of China and the shutting down of Google months ago.  (Google actually pulled out I think – but at any rate, the internet is government regulated)

There are some organizations that are quite liberal with knowledge management.  Many technology companies deploy blogs and wikis and actively encourage employees to write and participate.  Many brick and mortar companies won’t deploy enterprise social platforms because they are afraid of what might come out.  Rather than encouraging the discourse (ALL of which will happen anyway), many of us have suppressed it based on a fear of “bad behavior.”

The problem about this is not about trust.  It’s about generations.  Unfortunately, many of us (I’ll just draw a line at 35 years old and up), realize that large corporations have not been democratic societies.  We work in states that are oligarchical at best.  Even in companies where the corporate center does not have much power over divisions, the individual divisions can command the employees at will.  Those in the workforce in their 20’s have no acceptance of such a model.  We’ve always talked about them as being insistent on having access to decision-making, being vocal and contributory, and demanding the be part of the conversation in general.  They have grown up in a world where technology has democratized the world, and it’s their expectation that data and information is part of their realm.

Evidence supports that actual instances of “bad behavior” are so low that it’s really not worth being afraid of – and the community will generally self police itself.  People realize for the most part that the conversations that happen in the workplace are different than the conversations that happen without – and the 5 horror stories you hear each year are insignificant compared to the potential for collaboration you have.  We can’t control the thinking.  Nor can we control the content.


Between everything that has been going on in the Middle East and of course the earthquake in Japan, I think April will be a current events month.  My thoughts and best wishes go out to all those throughout the world as they struggle in their various ordeals.  (written a while back obviously – sorry)

I Should Have Been A Rice Farmer

OK, I’m Taiwanese, and I recently went back to Taiwan to visit family and see the “home country” that I’ve never been to. As I stayed in the apartment my family had rented, surrounded by rice paddies on all sides, i realized how close I was to having been a rice farmer of some type. Perhaps i would have been growing green onions instead, but either way it was a close thing. One twist of fate 50 years ago would be all that stood between the Dubs you know (me), and the Dubs blogging about the best way to maximize a rice crop.

In another nice example, we are all hopefully familiar with those famous words from Ronald Reagan, “Mr Gorbachev, TAKE DOWN IS WALL!!” (ok, maybe I’m not that familiar, this is close though). Realize that the fall of communism actually came after the Reagan presidency, during the George HW Bush presidency. Also realize that one of the initial predecessor events was Gerald Ford signing the Helsinki act in 1975 that sowed the roots for internal uprising in the Soviet Union by those like the poet Vaclav Havel.

To stay with the rice analogy, a small seed sown ages ago, that nobody now remembers, I the root of all to come later.

We don’t always get this right in HR. Regardless of what we are implementing, we wait too long to consider change management. Its always in our approach and in our project plans, but as soon as we get into configuration, the best laid plans fall away and we end up with a change management program that involved a cool flyer and some training that goes out just before launch.

I’m not saying that these are not important. What I’m saying is that the best implementations and he best adoption rates come from planing a small seed early on and watching the organic growth of change spread through the organization (I would say “like wildfire” but hat seems counter productive to this particular analogy). the best changes occur when you can find an executive sponsor who really wants the stuff you are planning to implement, and you can get her excited about it. Before you know it, her entire organization is clamoring for your product, and its months before you are going to roll it out. Anticipation and continued communication and statusing is a good thing here. You can then use them as a pilot, collect heir recommendations and feedback, make them part of the implementation, and in turn, make them your organizational disciples to the rest of the organization.

The point is that you have to start early, and you have to start with the right population. The most effective transitions occur early. For me, I’m actually pretty happy I’m not a rice farmer.

Nerves and Decision Governance

What makes us intelligent, able to make decisions based on our surrounding and pdictions of the future is not that we have an emmense amount of knowledge packed into our brains. Rather, what makes us different as human beings is that we have a great deal of nerves and nerve connections. It is these connections that is what makes us able to operate in. Different mode than the other animals around us.

Without these fundamental building blocks of connections, we would simply not be able to make the decisions we make. The same can be said for governance. Armed with only knowledge, we can make decisions based on some preferences, but armed with knowledge and connections through a network, we can make decisions based on probable outcomes.

I constantly see governance bodies that are made up of senior HR VPs who operate based on what they know as a senior body. Acting without the help of lower level working groups or sub governance teams, they don’t have the benefit of connections and networks that would help them be more successful.

Its not that we can’t make decisions ourselves, but that in complex organizations, just as in complex organisms, a single body simply can’t discover all of the nuances and have all of the information it needs on its own. In today’s businesses with multiple systems, multiple HR functions, business functions, divisions, political factions, etc involved, having appropriate inputs to help decipher what is really going on and deciding what decisions are actionable and important becomes critical.

And the fact of the matter remains: that managers and executives don’t really ever hear the bad stuff. People are actually afraid of poorly stat using their projects and functions, and often it’s too late for executives to act by the time they catch wind that something has gone sideways. While discussing projects with peers within governance sub teams, clear discussions can be had, and realizations that often the issues are more cross functional in nature rather than the fault of a particular person can be recognized.

Indeed, even our projects are so interdependent upon each other that governance sub groups and working groups are absolutely essential to the proper functioning of our programs. Take talent management for example. Thinking that performance can live in a vacuum can only lead to trouble. Functional processes must be coordinated with learning, compensation, succession, staffing, and others. At the executive decision level, they must integrate with the executives from the same functions to ensure that strategic level adherence is maintained.

Regardless of the topic, governance and decision making is all about coordination and networking. Its an impossibility to think in todays HR technology world that any of us can live on an island without others, but also that we can be independent of others and still have a complete understanding of our environment.

Recruiting Engagement

So, I used to write this blog for me.  Honestly, I could have cared less that anyone was reading it.  It has been a great exercise for almost 6 years – forcing me to continuously thing and read and research.  I’ve enjoyed writing over 1000 posts and think of it as a fairly significant achievement.  But I’m quite honestly tired of it.  I no longer do it for me, and I don’t have the time or energy to invest in doing the twitter thing, or networking with other bloggers – all the things that seem to make for successful blogs these days.  It’s just not fun at the moment.

I was watching a recent HBR video ((Harvard Business Publishing Videocast, The Path to Peak Performance.  Dr. Edward Hallowell.)) that did talk about emotion as one of the critical drivers of success.  He pointedly asserted that “working harder” was in no way a meaningful path to achieving higher performance.  Instead, the right people in the right jobs who were emotionally invested would create success (note that he didn’t call it engagement, but that’s what it is).  He also noted that this involvement of emotion in the equation seemed to have a balance between work and play.  That is not to say that people “play” at work, but that emotionally, the work was fun.  I’ll admit that I often do have fun at work.  I enjoy my projects and I enjoy creating.  But I think that many of us have people in top positions in our organizations that are not truly having fun.

This is an interesting departure from prior discussion of engagement.  Where before we could always create engagement, in this scenario, “fun,” emotional investment seems to be created more from within than anything we in HR can do.  What HR can do is put people in the right jobs in the first place, and then our employees have a chance at this concept of fun and play.  That the significant part of the engagement equation actually lies in selection and job placement before any of our engagement surveys or tools is deployed is a bit troubling.  After all, we don’t measure our recruiters on engagement or fit to position.  We’d like to think they are thinking in those terms, but we are measuring our recruiters on fill rates and time.

I do genuinely love what I do.  I think I’m good at it, and I find the work quite interesting.  My clients generally like me with the occasional exception.  I think I may be one of the lucky ones.  In my last 2 jobs, I’m pretty sure there weren’t positions open for me.  I happened to finagle my way into chatting with the right person, and they’d find a way to get me into the organization.  Most people tend to interview for jobs, have to take the job that they are offered that matches what they need to get paid.  The hope is that their skills, compensation threshold, and interests all collide at the same time, but realistically that’s unlikely, isn’t it?  Our gatekeepers are our recruiters.  We need to do a better job of not only measuring fit from a skills and income perspective, but also from an emotional interest perspective.  Our employees who are going to succeed are going to do so not because we figured out how to engage them, but because we got the right person in the right job and gave them the best opportunity to inspire themselves.

The Butterfly Effect

In 1972, Edward Lorenz wrote a paper called “Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil set off a Tornado in Texas?”  In this paper, the flapping of a butterfly’s wings, a minute, very low mass, and quite insignificant action, represents a small initial and remote condition that can lead to major downstream impacts.  Chaos theory is actually the study of initial conditions that lead to large divergences in outcomes.  ((I know you guys don’t like when I talk science, it shows in the hit rates for this site.  But here goes anyway.))

I’m always complaining about meteorologists (I actually long since stopped watching TV news, so now I complain about  But considering the numerous possibilities and dynamics of how weather can change, it’s no wonder they can’t quite get the formula right.  I mean, how many butterflies are there in the Amazon in Brazil anyway?  The possibilities are so staggering that any predictability is pretty good – so while they can’t take into account every possible variance, it is possible to look at large inputs that are happening fairly close to the near future and impending events.

HR is quite similar – we have so many individual contributors (pun intended) that watching every employee in the organization, every conversation, IM and email is rather impossible.  But we do know that our ability to engage our workforce happens through communications, whether it’s manager to employee, from project managers giving cool work to people, vendors making good or bad promises, executives steering the company direction with the board of directors or communicating to employees.  It might be the random water cooler conversation that spins out of control and becomes an avalanche of employee sentiment (good or bad).

So while we can’t monitor every single interaction in our workforce, we can indeed monitor major trends that are going on.  We know that wind direction is blowing east at 10 miles an hour in a particular region, and that atmospheric pressure is dropping somewhere else.  We understand that as these two conditions might hit each other, certain predictable events happen.

I’m talking as much about tragedy, a change in benefits providers that leads to major losses in employee engagement, as I am talking about those huge gains, increases in a specific competency that drive the next major innovation.  Our jobs in HR are so incredibly complex as we as we create service delivery, technology and processes that foster growth while at the same time combing through predictive analytics that avert disaster at every turn.  It’s our job to understand those trends in current and fan them so they become stronger or weaker.

The breadth of currents that we look out for is also amazing – from all things rewards which is already extraordinarily broad, to talent which is also extraordinarily broad, to core HR, ER, PR, and whatever else R.  We constantly adapt, to new legislation to new processes, technology and theories.  There is so much “why we hate HR” out there, but we accomplish so much it’s often staggering.

So here, on my 1,000th post, I wanted to offer my congratulations to all of you out there – my readers – for all you do, all you are, all we create, and all we contribute.  We control the chaos.  And while you do it, thank you for reading.